Bridge of the Americas

After a couple of weeks of steady start-stop backroad driving, Lenore learned how to find and stay on what they eventually discover was the Pan-American Highway. It was a grand name for a grand idea that fell way short on execution. In places, it wasn't much more than a dirt trail that a grader had scraped over a couple of times a year. But even that was better than roads they had followed during their first days in Guatemala.

Typically, as they approached an urban center with cosmopolitan pretensions -- say, an international airport -- things would briefly begin to look more and more like Northern Mexico. They'd lapse back again on the exit side.

After a few close calls of watching the needle on the fuel gauge hover a hair's breath from the left hand pin -- where they were both found themselves locked in long minutes of quiet, scalp-prickling suspense over just when the engine would quit before a filling station would mercifully present itself -- they eventually experienced one instance which also left them mired headlight-deep in a road-spanning mudhole when Lenore gunned the engine for extra speed, and instead of inertia forward got exactly the opposite.

They learned after that to ensure they had enough gasoline to spare for emergencies and get them to the next set of gas pumps, and to hedge their bet for the inevitible boggy stretches too. Milo had hitchiked on donkey carts for two hours each way, that time, getting gas. Then they spend another day throwing stones into the mud, waiting for a tractor to come by and drag them out. Even though it made the whole van reek of fuel, from then on they carried a couple of full army-surplus jerricans bungeed to the bumper outside the rear doors.

Panama City followed the pattern, except the roads got better sooner, and grew wider the closer they got. By the time they drew close enough to actually see the city, it was like a picture of what American cities were supposed to look like, with a smart-looking, modern, cosmopolitan skyline.

It had been hours since they stopped for anything, having taken advantage of the good conditions to get as far down a quality stretch of pavement as fast as the van would allow -- wound out and slightly downhill, they were doing an almost unprecedented, fairly consistent 58 miles an hour. A thought suddenly occurred to Milo.

"Are we going to stop sometime?"

Lenore didn't take her eyes off the road.

"You gotta pee?"

"No, not that. I mean, where are you -- we -- going? I never thought to ask until now..."

"I don't know," Lenore admitted, suddenly looking tired, and wiping a stray tendril of sweat dampened hair back from her face. "As far as possible. I thought I'd know when I got there. "

She glanced sideways at him. "We're both running, aren't we? I don't know exactly what kind of strange shit you're running away from, bro, but I know what's behind me, and this is nowhere near distant enough yet. I need to get a lot further."

Milo thought about that. Thought about the explosion in Chicago a bleary lifetime ago. Thought about the carefully hidden fractal fusion generator. Thought about all the big men in suits outside his apartment. Thought about the man on the scooter.

Then he thought a bit about the universe.

He realized he was nodding in agreement. "Yeah. South... a lot further."